Nicole Anyanwu, Derek Imai announce ASUC executive candidacy under REBUILD coalition

Josh Kahen/Staff

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On March 5, campus juniors Nicole Anyanwu and Derek Imai, who are both current ASUC senators, announced their candidacies for next academic year’s Academic Affairs Vice President and External Affairs Vice President, respectively.

Anyanwu and Imai are officially running under the newly created coalition, REBUILD. Arriving in the wake of CalSERVE’s decision to not run candidates this election cycle, REBUILD seeks to offer support for independent candidates, according to Varsha Sarveshwar, who is serving as co-chair of the new coalition.

“We’re trying to make sure candidates who are dedicated, amazing and talented have the vehicle and support they need to get elected,” Sarveshwar said. “Our coalition for this year is named REBUILD.”

According to Sarveshwar, REBUILD will be registering as an official party to comply with ASUC bylaws and will be dissolving after this election. She added that the point of this coalition is solely to get people into this election cycle.

REBUILD co-chair Josh Lewis said the new organization is a “coalition of independents on a slate.”

“I feel like parties have been really destructive in the ASUC and really eliminate the individuality that is necessary to represent marginalized communities,” Imai, who disaffiliated with his former party Student Action in October 2019, said. “I feel like party politics have been really salient this year. I felt a lot of peer pressure last year to act a certain way and be a certain way, and a lot of those ways just didn’t reflect the values that I’ve always had.”

During her time as a senator, Anyanwu advocates for increasing physical and mental wellness, expanding and renovating fitness centers on campus and representing disenfranchised groups on campus.

As Academic Affairs Vice President, or AAVP, Anyanwu seeks to continue to represent marginalized communities on campus. Historically, the AAVP’s office has been centered on an all-encompassing academic effort, but there are some students who have been left in the margins, according to Anyanwu.

Anyanwu said her first introduction to the ASUC was through her experience as the community outreach director under the AAVP’s office during her sophomore year.

“My experience in that office was not productive. It was super disorganized; there was times when leadership wasn’t there,” Anyanwu said. “Potentially, there’s a lot more that that office could be doing to support students.”

Anyanwu said she hopes, if elected, to bring about real, lasting change, especially for marginalized students. She also aims to move away from the surface-level changes brought about by past AAVPs.

Imai has also promoted the mental and physical wellbeing of his peers as an ASUC senator.

During his time in the senate, Imai mainly focused his efforts on public health platforms, including pre-health professional development, physical and mental wellness, nutrition and environmental health and justice.

“Access to healthcare is obviously a really big issue on this campus, especially in regards to mental health,” Imai said. “There’s a lot of different issues that I believe students are stakeholders of and should be at the forefront of.”

Imai said one of his main efforts, if elected, will be geared toward making sure communication with student communities is stronger and puts the voices of the most marginalized students on campus at the center.

During his time spent lobbying at various events, Imai said he has noticed that the burnout of advocacy tends to just be on those who are the most oppressed and marginalized. If elected as External Affairs Vice President, Imai said he wants to motivate students to contribute and increase the general support in making advocacy more equitable.

“I’ve just really realized the power the ASUC has through my time as a senator,” Anyanwu said. “There is so much power, and with it, potential for change.”

Audry Jeong is a student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @audryjng_dc.